Could a boisterous, burger-toting male actually adjust to life in Ecuador? Would I fit in?
The first days of an immersion trip are the most difficult. Beside the cocktail mix of sleep deprivation and a horrendous flight, Wabash students always find themselves fighting to catch up culturally.
I spent the entire plane ride from Indianapolis to Quito thinking this way. Would we fit in? Could 12 boisterous, burger-toting and beer-drinking males actually make the necessary changes to properly adjust? Even the word ‘adjustment’ sounded intimidating.
As I left the plane, I was heaving through a slew of doubts. How would I survive here with only an elementary grasp of Spanish, without my morning coffee? Waiting in customs, I almost fainted.
On top of that, I had found out only minutes earlier that on this first night, we would be staying with host families. There would be no cool-down time in the safe confines of a hotel with my Wabash brothers; we were getting split up and heading into nighttime Quito.
As I walked out the “no-reentry gate,” I caught sight of an elderly woman and man waving around a folder and talking with Professor Rogers. My stomach completed another exaggerated and painful flip. As I got closer, I tried my hardest to avoid eye contact.
The woman saw the pained look on my face; that’s all it took for her to excitedly flag me down and make a grand motion for a hug.
From that moment on, my host family made it clear that I could make it through the entire month. And that’s what I’ve been doing ever since.
I’ve experienced things which I couldn’t have imagined only months before. I’ve eaten the native guinea pig, which tastes quite enjoyable when roasted. I´ve climbed the side of an active volcano. I’ve discussed (and argued) successfully with a native Spanish speaker (my host father) about myriad topics including, but not limited to, American hegemony, world politics, and philosophy. We´ve even had the chance to engage in some cherished conversations about morals, family, and religion.
Now, from the comfort of days later, I am able to reflect on my prior fear. Every time I look in the mirror of my Ecuadorian “home,” I go as far as to wonder why it was that I had been scared; every time I face my reflection, I find a more mature Wabash man, complete with a deeper sense of self and understanding.